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How to Say No to a Team Member’s Idea

three tips for saying no better

Two people working on laptops at a small table with a cup of coffee and plant on it.

Growing a business means fielding a lot of different ideas.

New ideas, old ideas, shiny ideas.

Ideas come in the form of new offerings, solutions to problems within our business, and different tactics to improve our ability to achieve our goals.

But if we don’t know how to say no to ideas that take our eye off the ball, we’re on a short road to Noiseville — which isn’t a good use of our time.

When you’re sitting in your Zoom box or reading the latest turn of events in a Slack channel and a new idea is proposed, take space to consider it.

If you don’t think what your fellow team member suggested helps you fulfill your purpose, achieve your vision, or meet your mission, you need to say no.

But how do you say no to a fellow team member who’s excited about what they’re proposing?

Here are some tips:

1. Positive first.

Acknowledge their excitement and anything about the idea you think is positive and/or productive. There’s almost always something to build on, even if it’s simply their effort.

2. Ask them to explain how it will work.

When we ask why too quickly, we can make things personal. Instead, ask questions that get them to break down the reasoning behind this idea. And as always, keep your What’s the Point sword handy.

3. If you can, offer a revision.

But do it in the form of a question, like, “Well, what if we did X but not Y?” or “Have you considered combining that with Z?” By asking questions instead of making statements, you involve them. No is about finding better ideas, not dismissing people.

4. And if it’s a no, say no.

It’s easy to nod and smile. No is hard. If you think something should get a no, say it. Be kind but firm. Don’t apologize, and don’t get defensive.

Always remember that you’re saying no because you want your team to invest their time in the things that matter, not waste it on aimless tasks.

Helping each other to say no means you value and respect each other.

Say no better.

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Originally published at on April 25, 2022.



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